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The Development Exponent: A Leadership Perspective
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The Development Exponent: A Leadership Perspective

Author: Bruce Holoubek

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Welcome to “The Development Exponent: A Leadership Perspective” with your host Bruce Holoubek. Bruce believes that the degree to which leaders invest in the development of their people as a whole has an exponential effect on both the growth of that individual and the growth of the organization in which they work. When done properly, it creates truly mutually meaningful work engagements. Your looking glass into the mechanics of that relationship starts here. - You can learn more about Bruce and the work he does with leaders at
78 Episodes
Subscribe to The Development Exponent What if you could have your biggest organizational issues assessed and addressed, with guaranteed results? That’s the promise of Contracted Leadership. We at Contracted Leadership are more than consultants. We’re contractors who work side-by-side with organizations and we aren’t afraid to get our hands dirty. That level of commitment is required of anyone representing us. Each subcontractor has 15-20+ years of experience in various industries, including substantial leadership roles. They’re carefully vetted and trained to ensure that they’ll represent the purpose of Contracted Leadership. In this episode, you’ll hear more about the ins and outs of Contracted Leadership. This time we’re doing something new. Rather than interviewing someone or speaking on a topic, I’m handing over the wheel to Carey Green, the founder of Podcast Fast Track. This time, Carey is interviewing me! Carey is one of the best interviewers ever. He and his team are responsible for turning good recordings into great podcast episodes. Carey and I discuss the reason Contracted Leadership exists and the story behind how it came to be. Listen in on this opportunity to learn about the heart of Contracted Leadership. Outline of This Episode [01:25] Why Bruce is being interviewed [07:23] Contracted Leadership’s focus [10:03] Why do organizations approach Contracted Leadership? [14:55] Why does development tend to be neglected? [17:45] Contracted Leadership’s Ideal clients [19:30] The three steps in the development process [28:17] What is unique about Contracted Leadership? [33:24] Why did Bruce start Contracted Leadership? [41:59] Advice for organizations experiencing growth pains Connect with Carey Green Carey Green on LinkedIn Podcast Production Services from Podcast Fast Track SPONSOR: eWebinar – “Automated webinar” solutions are out there. Sadly, they’re little more than videos playing alongside some fake attendees. They achieve their basic purpose and provide information, but let’s face it... they’re one-sided and boring. We’ve made them fun and engaging. Check out for all the details! Connect With Bruce Facebook LinkedIn Twitter Subscribe to The Development Exponent Audio Production and Show notes by PODCAST FAST TRACK
Subscribe to The Development Exponent Creation is the key to learning. When we can apply what we learn, we make knowledge our own. My guest takes that belief to new levels. Dan White is the founder and CEO of Filament Games where their ultimate goal is to inspire people to learn more on their own. I knew I needed to speak with Dan White after watching his video about how to embrace failure. In the video, Dan shares his belief that failure should be expected and celebrated rather than avoided. I know you’ll be inspired by his passion for effective learning. Outline of This Episode [2:18] What does Filament Games do? [7:20] The importance of learning based games [12:04] Learning games now vs the past [18:07] Dreaming of the future of gaming [21:32] Moving from concept to client [30:24] Teaching robotics digitally [42:43] Where is Filament Games going next? [44:53] The power of failure Connect with Dan White Dan White on LinkedIn Filament Games SPONSOR: eWebinar – “Automated webinar” solutions are out there. Sadly, they’re little more than videos playing alongside some fake attendees. They achieve their basic purpose and provide information, but let’s face it... they’re one-sided and boring. We’ve made them fun and engaging. Check out for all the details! Connect With Bruce Facebook LinkedIn Twitter Subscribe to The Development Exponent Audio Production and Show notes by PODCAST FAST TRACK
Subscribe to The Development Exponent Ambition, courage, and curiosity are character traits you’ll find in many founders and many innovators across disciplines. I immediately saw all three of those traits in my guest on this episode, Mary Dixon. Mary is a founder in the pharmaceutical and medical device industry, working to improve the lives of human beings through research and development that empower the person’s greatest health. Her history has led her to the development of software that empowers medical providers and patients as well. The focus is to do this through the use of data to discover the deeper unmet needs of everyone in the scenario. I invite you to listen. You’ll be inspired by Mary’s competence and insight and how she keeps her focus on the individuals involved in the complex process of healthcare solutions. Outline of This Episode [1:50] Mary’s 30-year history in pharma and how she leads in ground-breaking developments [12:20] How curiosity has contributed to Mary’s career development and innovation [23:27] Hiring for curiosity and the mission, not necessarily industry expertise [28:52} Surprising challenges transitioning to leadership [33:45] What Mary wishes others knew about Big Pharma [37:22] Achievements Mary is particularly proud of [40:46] What are “human factors” and why are they so important? [47:50] Mary’s childhood experience with healthcare and how it led to her current role [1:01:37] The confidence that’s come in leading over the years: delegation Connect with Mary Dixon Mary on LinkedIn:  Companies Mary serves  SPONSOR: First Business Bank – Take banking to the next level. Fuel business growth. Improve personal wealth gains. Elevate your banking expectations with a financial partner that delivers comprehensive business banking services – built on experience. Find out more at  Resources Definition of Software as a Medical Device Locus of control theory BOOK: “The Culture Code” BOOK: “Start With Why” BOOK: “Deep Survival” Connect With Bruce Facebook LinkedIn Twitter Subscribe to The Development Exponent Audio Production and Show notes by PODCAST FAST TRACK
Subscribe to The Development Exponent After starting his accounting firm serving the for-profit world, Nick Curran had an “accidental” conversation that led him down the path his business was to follow for the foreseeable future — providing accounting services exclusively to non-profit organizations. As CEO of Numbers 4 Non-Profits, Nick leads a substantial team of accountants, consultants, assistants, and administrative professionals to, in his words, “Do the simple things right.” In this conversation, you’ll hear Nick describe why non-profit organizations tend to be more stable than their for-profit counterparts, the typical bumps in the road non-profits face, and why clear and quick communication is always the best course of action, no matter the issue.  Outline of This Episode [2:17] The road to providing accounting services for non-profit organizations [6:09] Difficult aspects of serving clients in the non-profit space [11:45] Why non-profit organizations tend to be more stable and successful [16:06] Misconceptions non-profit organizations have about their accounting [25:15] Staying connected to the original reasons you started a business [30:22] How a heart attack showed Nick the power of the relationships he’s built [35:10] Achievements Nick’s business has attained that he’s most proud of [38:01] Is there really a professional life / personal life division? [41:42] The struggle to hold team members accountable [48:00] Two things top decision-makers can make right now Connect with Nick Curran Numbers 4 Non-Profits Follow Nick on LinkedIn SPONSOR: First Business Bank – Take banking to the next level. Fuel business growth. Improve personal wealth gains. Elevate your banking expectations with a financial partner that delivers comprehensive business banking services – built on experience. Find out more at Connect With Bruce Facebook LinkedIn Twitter Subscribe to The Development Exponent Audio Production and Show notes by PODCAST FAST TRACK
Subscribe to The Development Exponent Growing up in a family-owned general contracting business, Sam Daniels worked in the field, learned back-office stuff, and then went to school to learn more of the business skills needed to be a significant part of the family business going forward. His journey into leadership and the lessons he’s had to learn — and how he’s learned them — provide great food for thought for those in the role of leadership. Sam speaks with host, Bruce Holoubek about sustaining the family feel of the business over time, what that looks like practically when it comes to employee benefits and communication, and more. Join us for this conversation. SPONSOR: First Business Bank - Take banking to the next level. Fuel business growth. Improve personal wealth gains. Elevate your banking expectations with a financial partner that delivers comprehensive business banking services - built on experience. Find out more at  Outline of This Episode [1:03] Building construction: how it’s built and how it shapes us [4:46] Sam’s company is a diversified self-performing contractor? What’s that? [6:43] Shifting from residential construction to larger-scale commercial work [11:01] Characteristics that set Daniels Construction apart from other companies [14:48] Working in the field as the kid of one of the company leaders [17:20] The fun of being a third-generation leader in a family business [22:30] Leadership lessons about caring for the team, learned from his grandfather [25:06] Misconceptions about the construction industry [29:55] Why long-term employees are the norm at Daniel’s construction [35:19] Surprises Sam’s high school friends might experience if they met him today [37:51] Why the work Daniel’s construction does, matters to Sam and to others [42:02] How losing his grandfather shaped his course to lead in the family business [48:01] The one thing Sam desires for his employees more than anything [49:55] Two pieces of advice for top decision-makers Connect with Sam Daniels Sam on LinkedIn Daniels Construction, Madison, Wisconsin Connect With Bruce Facebook LinkedIn Twitter Subscribe to The Development Exponent Audio Production and Show notes by PODCAST FAST TRACK
We all learn, in our own particular ways, that life is no walk in the park. Crisis, hardship, loss, and myriad other circumstances chip away at youthful optimism and threaten to undo us. But it’s our response to these things that largely determines whether we will be resilient and strong, or cowering and soft. As a top decision-maker in your organization, you know this. It’s one of the many things that has set you apart as a leader. My guest on this episode has a great deal to say about the subject. He’s experienced plenty of struggle in his life and he believes that the more struggle you have in life, the more opportunity you have for becoming strong. John Schneider has learned that failure is not something to be feared, it’s something to be learned from. His story illustrates how resilience, determination, and a desire to add value to the lives of others can create a kind of success that few of us even know is possible. As the leader of four companies, he passes those values on to his teams and works every day to infuse them into his growing family. Join us for this challenging and insightful conversation. The more struggle you have, the stronger you become John’s first steps into business ownership came through an opportunity to flip houses. He ran a lean operation and had no interest in simply slapping paint on a less-than-quality structure and flipping it for a profit. To him, there had to be tangible improvements to the property that resulted in value for the purchaser, which only then translated into value for him. In an effort to increase his margins, he started an ancillary business, then another, then another. And with each new business came new challenges and struggles. But there’s something in John’s entrepreneurial DNA that doesn’t allow him to shy away from those struggles. He has learned that’s a good thing. He says that the more struggle you have, the stronger you become — or at least you have a greater opportunity to become stronger. So he often coaches others to step into the struggles rather than running away from them. It’s in that step that you find more strength than you knew you had. How has this proven true in your leadership journey? Are there ways you can use the struggle to your advantage and that of your teams? Once you’ve eaten the onion, everything else is easier One of the colorful entrepreneurial endeavors in John’s past was a short season he was trying to promote concerts in his area. He convinced some partners to come alongside him to fund a music festival of sorts and he took care of booking the bands, securing the venue, and dealing with vendors. One of the things outside his control was the weather, and it didn’t cooperate with all his best-laid plans. The losses were catastrophic. John told me about the experience of making phone calls to the people who had invested in the event in various ways. Those were some of the hardest conversations he’s ever had to have, but he says they taught him lessons he didn’t know he needed at the time. One of those was that it’s always easier to do the things you dread or find difficult, first. Getting past your fears and experiencing the light at the end of that dark tunnel demonstrates that things are often not as bad as they seem and that you will get through it. In his words, once you’ve eaten your onion, everything else is easier. Failure is, by far, the best teacher you have John also explains that the fear of failure many of us live with is actually one of the most irrational fears we could have. The truth is that failure is one of the only ways we learn. It provides a very clear perspective on how we perform and the results of that performance. In failure, our weaknesses become evident, which provides a unique opportunity to identify them and make plans to overcome them. John believes that failure is, by far, is the best teacher you have — and I wonder, how have you, as a top decision-maker and leader, discovered this to be true? Or do you need to take the lessons from John’s experience as a reminder of that fact? Might I encourage you, don’t miss out on the lessons failure has to offer you by playing it safe. Expect failure, plan on it, and step into situations where it’s a possibility. Then pay close attention when it arrives. You’ll learn lessons during those times that are not available to you anyplace else. 3 pieces of advice for anyone considering the entrepreneurial life Having started or led so many businesses, I thought it would be super helpful for John to provide his perspective to those who are considering an entrepreneurial path. He was not shy about sharing the three most important pieces of advice he’s learned. I’m sure you will resonate with these. Be willing to work as hard as you must to be successful Learn how to figure out obstacles and issues so you can constantly improve Know your numbers I couldn’t agree with John’s insights on this point more strongly. You likely have insights about each of them as well. I encourage you to listen to his explanation of each so that you can understand how they fit together and provide a wise and stable launchpad for any entrepreneurial endeavor. You may find that his insights provide much-needed help on your journey as a leader. Outline of This Episode [0:57] Insight and vision describe this episode’s guest [2:57] John’s beginning in house flipping that quickly morphed into other businesses [11:45] How the idea of providing value drives John to step into opportunities [15:10] The origin of “Property Revival” [18:35] If you’re not struggling in any way, you atrophy [21:23] John’s top 3 pieces of advice for those wanting to be an entrepreneur [26:45] The back story behind John’s entrepreneurial journey (it includes a rock band) [35:53] A real estate investment that turned sour but wound up being the best deal [40:04] Living a fulfilled life and providing a fulfilled life for those around you [45:40] How competition and music have taught John the power of being present [53:10] Resilience is in our DNA, we just have to learn how to make the most of it [1:00:03] Conquering your fears (and how John won’t be voted parent of the year) Resources & People Mentioned SPONSOR: First Business Bank - Take banking to the next level. Fuel business growth. Improve personal wealth gains. Elevate your banking expectations with a financial partner that delivers comprehensive business banking services - built on experience. Find out more at  BOOK: Principles by Ray Dalio Eckhart Tolle Connect with John Schneider Follow John on LinkedIn  Connect With Bruce Facebook LinkedIn Twitter Subscribe to The Development Exponent Audio Production and Show notes by PODCAST FAST TRACK
When you hear about someone needing to unplug, you likely picture someone frazzled and on the edge of a burn-out. We can all relate to similar feelings of overwhelm; it seems almost inevitable. However, that outcome could have been different if the person had proactively taken the time to refresh before getting to that point. Jim McNulty, Sr. Vice President of Business Banking, doesn’t only understand the previous truth, he’s done something about it. During this conversation, we discuss his experience taking a ten-week sabbatical and his journey to that decision. As I spoke with Jim, I came to understand his heart for people. Throughout our discussion, he kept coming back to that. His hiring process, the way he operates, and his relationships teach us a lot about creating a culture that develops others.  We discussed the impact that COVID-19 had on Oak Bank and how they pushed through the obstacles presented by the pandemic to be able to say, “Yes” to each person in need. In a matter of weeks, he had to turn his bank into a PPP loan processing station. Every individual who called needing help was met with kindness and understanding. Jim attributes much of this understanding to lessons he learned during his sabbatical. Listen to learn more from Jim’s wise perspective about taking time to refresh. How does unplugging benefit the workplace? There were many benefits that came from Jim’s sabbatical, not just for him but for his family and workplace team. Jim and his family grew closer during his time off and he learned to appreciate the benefits of unplugging. Meanwhile, his company benefited due to the training provided and trust granted in preparation for Jim being gone. His employees flourished with having greater responsibility and future leadership potential was developed.  It’s easy to think that we are indispensable, that the work we do is too important for us to take time off, that no one can do our job as well as we can. The reality is that our businesses should be able to run without us. Not permanently, of course, but certainly for a time. Preparing for someone to unplug is like an emergency drill. We can prepare for the inevitable by preparing for the expected. What does it mean to unplug? Many of us think we need to be constantly available and engaged in the workplace. We wouldn’t even consider taking a break. Staying busy and living in an exhausted state has become the norm for our culture. In previous episodes, I’ve discussed the necessity of work/life synchrony. That being said, unplugging also provides an opportunity for great revelations and positive shifts. It allows us to gain a new perspective on every relationship in life.  Unplugging is different for each individual. Most commonly it means separating yourself from work. However, it could also mean temporarily backing away from a situation or event. Regardless of the reason, great benefit can be attained by stepping away and resetting, and the benefits will continue for years to come in both our professional and personal lives. Why should you consider unplugging? Dieter F. Uchtdorf said, “We would do well to slow down a little, focus on the significant, and truly see the things that matter most.” What does that look like? It’s stepping away from the busyness of life to give yourself the time to reset. How long you should unplug is entirely dependent on how long it takes to accomplish your intended purpose. If you’re willing to unplug, you’ll find that you’ll be better prepared to have meaningful discussions with others and that your relationships will grow. These are things Jim has found to be true after he unplugged with his sabbatical.  What do you think of when you hear the word unplug? Is it something you’ve considered for yourself or your employees? Find out how learning to unplug will make you a better leader with a stronger team.  Outline of This Episode [3:40] Jim McNulty’s leadership background from flipping burgers to the present [7:03] How to hire employees who care about people [10:02] How Oak Bank stands out [18:50] Jim’s slam dunk achievement at Oak Bank [26:04] Using work successes in personal relationships [29:10] Struggles during the pandemic [33:20] Jim’s ten-week sabbatical [40:37] What Jim learned during the trip that benefited his work [46:13] Two benefits of unplugging to keep in mind  Resources & People Mentioned SPONSOR: eWebinar - eWebinar automates the tedious task of giving the same presentation again and again, unlocking your free time for whatever you choose - try it for free for 30 days Ray Dalio’s book Jack Welch Jack Welch Management Institute Connect with Jim McNulty Jim’s company profile Jim McNulty Jim’s sabbatical blog The Big Trip Connect with Jim on LinkedIn Jim McNulty's Twitter profile Connect With Bruce Facebook LinkedIn Twitter Subscribe to The Development Exponent Audio Production and Show notes by PODCAST FAST TRACK
The building of any organization requires an inordinate amount of enthusiasm for what you’re building and why you’re doing it, certainly more than the average person possesses. That’s why good leadership is at such a premium — it’s unusual for that kind of passion to exist in an individual, much less to exist in a way that is sustainable over the long haul. Tim O’Brien is a leader who oozes passion for what he’s doing and it’s all rooted in the realization that he has the opportunity every day to help others live a better life. His role as founder of The Healthy Place and other nutrition and health-related companies is the natural result of his pursuit of that desire. In this conversation, we discuss how Tim became interested in the world of natural health, how he creates a culture within his companies that focuses on helping the customer first (even if that doesn’t result in a sale), how he's learned to activate and empower the unique abilities of his team members, and much more. We could have talked for hours, so I invite you to join me for another captivating conversation. Leaders must ensure that organizational culture serves customers Organizations that matter function according to some sort of mission, a reason the organization exists. Typically, that mission benefits people, who are its customers or recipients. It’s the leader who is responsible to ensure that the people their organization serves remain the front and center focus of the organization’s efforts. Tim O’Brien keeps that focus in view for his teams by repeating a simple phrase that is introduced during the three-month training all team members receive. What is the statement? “Souls before sales.” It’s Tim’s way of reminding himself and his team members that the help they provide to their customers has no strings attached. Sometimes that means they don’t sell anything. Other times, it may mean a sale happens. Either way, the person is being served in a way that truly benefits them, and that is what matters. Leaders must also ensure that team members can serve customers with integrity On the “team” side of things Tim’s slogan “souls before sales” applies as well. Tim desires for his team members to be among the highest compensated in the industry and wants to provide that compensation in a way that is never in competition with the best interests of the customer. For example, in the natural health industry, it’s common for sales associates to receive varying levels of commission, based on the products being sold. Tim himself experienced this tension when as a young man working in a health food store, he was tempted to suggest a supplement that he knew was not the best solution to a customer’s problem but would earn him a higher commission. He never wants his team members to be faced with that kind of choice. Said another way, he wants to make it easy for his team to serve customers well. As a result, he provides his team members a bonus that is based on the overall growth of the company, not only on personal sales. That way their work contributes to the bonus but is not directly tied to the particular products they recommend or sell. They can maintain a clear conscience and full integrity in pointing customers to the best solutions for their needs.  Team selection is as much about passion and desire to help people as it is qualifications Everyone is on a journey, in life and career pursuits. It’s not always the case that job applicants know where they are headed or even what the job they are applying for will entail in its fullest manifestation. Knocking on doors and investigating employment opportunities is one of the ways we discover the path we are meant to take. This is one of the reasons that Tim’s organizations are not looking for specific life experiences or qualifications when selecting new team members. They know that expertise can be gained through training and experience on the sales floor. What matters more is that the person being trained has the passion to make a difference, the ability to learn, the willingness to be taught (which is an entirely different thing), and a deep desire to help people. Those ingredients can be refined to become an effective sales or customer service associate.  Are you casting a personal, compelling vision for your team? Team members are not cogs in the machinery that accomplishes the mission of visionary leaders. Their personal journey and experience of life are just as important as any mission the organization may have. Leaders must recognize this and apply that knowledge to the way they lead the people under them. Care, compassion, and true encouragement expressed by leaders build a level of trust and loyalty to the organization that can’t happen any other way. That’s why Tim endeavors to give himself daily reminders that the people he leads are valuable and important as human beings — and is also the reason why he communicates that fact to people often. None of us can overcome our insecurities, doubts, and fears without those influential others who remind us that the negative voices we hear are lying to us. Tim takes that responsibility seriously and desires to be a conduit of hope and encouragement to everyone he meets. In my book, that’s a true leader. Outline of This Episode [1:10] Tim O’Brien’s experience, background, and motivation in nutrition and wellness [7:41] What people concerned about health supplements don’t typically understand [11:01] How Tim has built a culture of education and knowledge in his companies [15:09] The personal story behind Tim’s journey into nutrition, health, and helping others [20:08] Hiring team members based on passion, character, and humility [25:05] Trust for his team and the pivotal moments that taught him how to do it [31:02] Why Tim and his team work hard to reduce friction for customers [34:11] The challenges and opportunities that have come from the COVID pandemic [42:04] Important things that drive Tim forward in life [47:21] Managing life and the varied responsibilities it brings [59:31] Tim’s offer of 25% off and FREE nutrition and health advice  Resources & People Mentioned SPONSOR:eWebinar automates the tedious task of giving the same presentation again and again, unlocking your free time for whatever you choose - try it for free for 30 days GNC Bruce’s talk at Disrupt Madison FIT (Functional Integrative Training) in Madison, WI Connect with Tim O’Brien Use the LIVE CHAT on Tim’s website to learn about ANY health issue - any day and use the coupon code “leadership” to get 25% off full price Connect with Tim on LinkedIn Tim’s company website: The Healthy Place Tim’s vitamin company: Lively Vitamin Co The Wild Theory CBD Oils company Tim leads Follow The Healthy Place on YouTube Follow on Instagram Connect With Bruce Facebook LinkedIn Twitter Subscribe to The Development Exponent Audio Production and Show notes by PODCAST FAST TRACK
There are many people who impact you deeply as you go through life, but only some who do so more deeply than you know at the time. Chris Clarke-Epstein is one of those people for me. Chris was a unique individual who possessed a movie-worthy personality and style. Her speaking prowess was the kind that captivated audiences before they knew what was happening. She was a chameleon of conversation, artfully adapting the way she interacted with individuals to enable a connection based on who they were and what they had experienced. Though she is best known for her storytelling and speaking she was also able to get right to the point, but in a way that made the person she was interacting with feel that they were being given the gift of knowledge and insight to be treasured. Our world is a richer place from having Chris in it. We will miss her.  Putting ideas into action requires change — in yourself and in how you respond All of us experience times in life when we need to decide if we're going to bring our new ideas to fruition. If so, we will have to change our current behavior and actions.  Change is a strange thing, it affects each of us uniquely. Chris Clarke-Epstein made it her life’s work to discover why some people respond to change by stepping up to the challenge while others are trapped in overwhelm and miss the opportunity change provides. She’s discovered that the measure of success in a person’s life is how they deal with the bends in the road that require change. Do they vacillate and delay out of fear or insecurity, or do they move ahead eager to discover a better future? The time between the two must diminish if we are to be good leaders and it’s our experience that shortens the cycle. Over time and as we grow, we find that what stopped us in our tracks earlier in life becomes something that we know we can get through by gathering our resources and moving ahead. Organizational change impacts your team in a variety of ways Leaders need to understand that the people in their organization handle change in a variety of ways. What is more, learning the following about your team can help you guide them artfully and wisely: Change is bigger in the minds of your team than it is in yours Your team is typically not in the know about the details surrounding the change you're proposing. You’ve had time to process the situation and make mental, emotional, and practical adjustments. Your team typically hasn’t. You need to empathize with their experience and lead them along at a rate that they can keep up with. As you do, your team will process the change more healthily and come on board more enthusiastically. Change is likely your choice, not the choice of your team As a leader, you need to force yourself back into the role of a follower for the sake of understanding the context within which your team is responding to the change being proposed. They have no control or say in whether the change takes place. It’s being dictated to them, they’ve got to adapt even if they don’t want to. Understanding that reality helps you patiently ask the questions required to understand their journey to the new reality you already see. Your team needs to understand the benefits of the change that you already see As a leader, you need to understand that the benefits you see coming from the changes you’re implementing are not internalized by your team — yet. Their motivation and their enthusiasm about the change will grow the more they see the future benefits they will experience. So cast that vision. Keep talking about it. Ensure that your team understands the better future you’re headed to together. Your team will believe in the need for change the longer and more consistently you talk about it 70% of organizational change initiatives fail. Why? Much of the reason is that the leader fails to consistently cast the vision behind the change and equip and empower the team to accomplish it. A sustained effort will empower change initiatives, convincing the team that it’s really going to happen. So stick with one idea until it’s complete. Don’t let the next seminar or leadership conference you attend derail what you already have in place. If you are constantly bringing new ideas and changes to your people your ideas for change will quickly lose credibility. These are just a sampling of the wisdom Chris shares in this conversation. It’s one I will treasure for years and am honored I was able to experience. Enjoy! Resources & People Mentioned SPONSOR:eWebinar - eWebinar automates the tedious task of giving the same presentation again and again, unlocking your free time for whatever you choose - try it for free for 30 days Connect With Bruce Facebook LinkedIn Twitter Subscribe to The Development Exponent Audio Production and Show notes by PODCAST FAST TRACK
Any leader in any organization has to be mindful of the example they set. What you model will be a good example or a bad example for distinct groups of people: those you lead, those you serve, those with whom you are in a close relationship, and those who observe your life from a distance. This undeniable reality is an aspect of leadership that seems to fall off the radar for many senior leaders. Position and success somehow obscure the need for humble modeling and are sometimes replaced by a sense of entitlement or superiority. Peter Schravemade is a leader who has not lost touch with the impact his example invariably has on others. Though he’s ultra-busy in his role at, he strives to keep himself grounded, for the sake of his family, those he leads, and his own sanity. Join me for this delightful conversation with a guy whose responses are often deeper than the question he’s been asked. That’s a good thing. Should a leader’s personal life intersect with their professional life? I’m always curious about how leaders see the relationship between personal and private life. Modern business etiquette often says the two should remain entirely separate, but if you’ve followed me for any length of time you’ll know that I couldn’t disagree more. I believe that who you are personally not only informs but amplifies who you are professionally if you allow the two to intersect in helpful ways. Peter is a “what you see is what you get” sort of guy. His self-deprecating humor and humble attitude have earned the respect of those he leads and have advanced him to positions of influence and strategic growth on the team. In this conversation, we discuss how his personal and professional life intersect and why it’s important for top decision-makers to make sure the two are connected.  Does the entirety of who you are hold up under the magnifying glass of a “What you see is what you get” perspective? As a leader, what can you do to nudge yourself a few steps close to it? Modeling a servant attitude is more powerful than you may think  People naturally gravitate toward those who encourage and help them. That’s why leaders should be practiced at recognizing the abilities of those on their teams, encouraging and empowering those abilities, and providing opportunities for them to develop. There’s a name for this, it’s called servant leadership. Peter says that the “service” part of what he does — as a leader and more broadly toward customers — is what keeps him going. He's made a good point, there. It’s a huge motivation to know that both how you lead your team and how you provide services to customers is making a difference in their lives. How are you doing on this front? Do the team members you lead know that you are in their corner and working to see them excel? If you’re not sure, why not ask them? You may find clear areas where you can improve your leadership that you didn’t know existed. True leaders model a deep belief in their product or service It’s been said that when you are convinced that the service or product you provide will benefit those who use it, you’re obligated to tell them about it. Leaders can learn something from that statement. Not only do you as a senior leader have broad experience from which those you lead can benefit, but you also have a perspective of the overall organization’s goals, direction, and impact on customers that can help them see the bigger picture of how your organization is making a difference in the lives of those you serve. In his role at, Peter has seen time and time again how the work they do fast-tracks the results their customers are seeking. It’s this clear benefit that he keeps in mind at all times. It motivates him each day and keeps him going as he travels across the world at a feverish pace (listen to this episode to hear an average week of insanity for Peter). His advice to those who don’t feel 100% in love with what they do in their organization is golden. It's this... If you find yourself unable to get entirely behind the product or service your organization provides, you probably need to find an organization that provides something you can get behind. You are not serving yourself, those you lead, or your organization well when you’re only bringing part of you to the task at hand. Don’t miss this episode. Peter shares his experience as a leader and team member in an unforgettable style that provides value with every response. And if you didn’t hear the first part of this two-part conversation,you can find it here. Outline of This Episode [1:15] Peter’s background in the church and the benefits he experiences as a result [3:40] Comparing professional life to personal life: what you see is what you get [6:28] Why Peter’s work in the real estate industry matters to him and his customers [11:50] The reason Peter keeps a crazy pace and varying business-travel lifestyle [17:03] Three characteristics of achieving the kind of success Peter has experienced [21:22] The one thing Peter would magically do for BoxBrownie if he could Resources & People Mentioned SPONSOR:eWebinar - eWebinar automates the tedious task of giving the same presentation again and again, unlocking your free time for whatever you choose - try it for free for 30 days The National Association of Realtors The Property Portal Watch Conference Connect with Peter Schravemade - where Peter serves Peter(at)  Connect With Bruce Facebook LinkedIn Twitter Subscribe to The Development Exponent Audio Production and Show notes by PODCAST FAST TRACK
Real Estate is an industry that everyone understands on a basic level, but very few know about the highly specialized niche businesses that serve the industry. These organizations keep the real estate machine humming along smoothly for the benefit of both buyers and sellers. Some of them enhance the process to provide greater value for everyone involved. Peter Schravemade serves as Strategic Relationships Manager at, one of those highly specialized real estate tech companies I referred to. takes average-looking photos of properties and makes them pop — resulting in faster sales and higher sales prices (Peter cites that claim during our conversation). Peter is the type of person you can talk with all day, and we almost did. Thus, this conversation will be split into two episodes. Watch your podcast player for the next installment. Learn how the leadership at started the company in Australia, the challenges they faced branching out to the U.S. market, and how they are handling the pains of massive growth as the company’s services continue to grow in demand. You can’t fix blurry When asked about the most challenging parts of what the team does, Peter was quick to say that though they work with many stellar real estate professionals, there are some who make him scratch his head. He’s had situations where agents provide blurry property photos and expect the magic to make the image clear. Others may upload a picture of a door, half-opened, and ask the BB team to “create” the rest of the room that can’t be seen. From those examples, Peter is quick to point out that it’s incumbent upon the team to educate its customers — and potential customers — about what is and isn’t possible in photography and why good quality original photos will benefit the seller, the buyer, and the real estate agent in the end. When they do this well, everyone wins. Are there ways as a top decision-maker your organization could take a page from the approach to amplify your customer’s results by educating them about what you do, how you do it, and why it is done that way? The team does so through blog content. How could you educate your customers better? How you act and react to a situation dictates the person you are. A painful turning point in Peter’s life was the passing of his mother. She struggled with sickness for many years and finally succumbed to death when he was 21 years old. Her example of serving her family faithfully despite her daily suffering is an inspiration to Peter to this day. Her loss forced Peter to seriously consider who he wanted to be and what he was going to do with his life. That’s when he chose to get into the real estate industry. It was during that season that a comment his mother often said to him came back to him. “How you act and react to a situation dictates the person you are.” He realized the wisdom of her words — that in every situation he has a responsibility to be the person he truly wants to be, the one who responds rightly, maturely, and with patience and wisdom toward others involved in the situation. What might happen in the lives of leaders and their teams if leaders adopted this sort of responsibility for their responses and actions? Beyond that, what could happen to the bottom line of their customers if that attitude permeated the organization resulting in customers being served better? How $1.60 sells houses faster and for more The base product sells is a photo service that enhances property photos to make them more appealing and revealing for potential property buyers. This enables the buyer to see the property with greater clarity so they better understand the features and qualities of the property purchase they are considering. The BB team knows this is important because industry statistics say that 84% of purchasers want to see good imagery in real estate listings. But what effect does imagery have on the sales cycle? Peter provides additional statistics from the National Association of Realtors that makes the importance of great photography abundantly clear. The photo processing service costs $1.60 per photo and can easily be accessed from a smartphone. The NAR stats say that good photos lead to properties selling 32% faster and at a price that is $9,000 to $11,000 more than properties that do not have good imagery. That’s a very small investment for a huge return, yet 80% of agents do not edit or process their images at all. As a top decision-maker, I challenge you to examine your industry to find similar leverage points that you can highlight for your team. Then, equip them to take advantage of what they discover. Your organization will flourish financially, but perhaps more importantly, you’ll be modeling industry savvy and insight for the team you lead. Be sure to watch your podcast player or app for part two of this great conversation. Outline of This Episode [3:16] How Peter describes what he does on a 7 year-old level [8:15] What is virtual staging and why is it an ethical approach to marketing a home? [15:22] Surprisingly difficult stages of building the company and moving to U.S. markets [22:40] The passing of Peter’s mother and the life-changing advice she gave him [31:24] How built it’s spot in the American Real Estate Market [37:45] The most common misconception about the Real Estate industry [40:41] Current challenges is facing Resources & People Mentioned SPONSOR:eWebinar - eWebinar automates the tedious task of giving the same presentation again and again, unlocking your free time for whatever you choose - try it for free for 30 days The Booker Prize Home Buyer and Seller Generational Trends from the National Association of Realtors Connect with Peter Schravemade - where Peter serves Connect With Bruce Facebook LinkedIn Twitter Subscribe to The Development Exponent Audio Production and Show notes by PODCAST FAST TRACK
In his book, “The Peter Principle: Why Things Always Go Wrong,” Dr. Laurence J. Peter quipped that “People in a hierarchy rise to their level of incompetence.” By this, he meant that employees are typically promoted based on their success in previous roles under the assumption that they will do well with even greater amounts of responsibility and leadership. Laurence says this formula of “success leads to promotion” often continues until that person reaches a level at which they are no longer competent for the role they've been given, as skills in one job do not necessarily translate to another. Though Dr. Peter’s book was released in 1969, we sadly see this dynamic happening still today, and it brings up a much-needed question, “Is there a better way to assess people for leadership roles?” I believe there is. This short episode introduces my ideas so I hope you listen. Where the promotion process typically goes wrong Beyond the dynamics that happen according to the Peter Principle, there are additional reasons that promoting people within your organization can go awry. I’ve noticed 5 significant concerns in my experience working alongside top decision-makers and teams. 1 - The compensation and reward structure of the organization is inadequate Many organizations only have one way of rewarding team members: by promoting them to a higher position in the organization. When your options are limited to that, you’ve already set yourself up for failure. Think through creative, meaningful ways that team members can be rewarded for performance and cultural contributions that don’t include promotions or steps up the rung of leadership. You’ll not only contribute to positive company culture, but you’ll also relieve the obligation team members feel to work toward promotions in the first place. 2 - The romantic notion of leadership Most top decision-makers and leaders know that there is nothing at all romantic about leadership. They have the battle scars to prove it. However, many people who are not in leadership don’t know the harsh realities and tend to romanticize leadership.  Clear communication, humility, and transparency from the top down can serve to reveal the realities of leadership to team members. It can also demonstrate the level of commitment leaders need if they are going to do their jobs well, informing those truly interested in leadership roles of the cost they will have to pay to become a leader. 3 - Outside influences impact leadership ambitions We are all influenced, for good and bad, by a variety of sources. If your team members are learning about leadership from outside your organization (not necessarily a bad thing) then they could be influenced to pursue leadership positions for reasons that don’t align with your organization’s values. Again, clear and regular communication that nurtures team member goals and dreams can help you get a bead on the real motivations behind leadership ambitions. 4 - The potential leader simply doesn’t know if they want to be a leader Many people stumble into leadership almost by accident. Once there, many of them discover gifts, abilities, and personality traits they didn’t know they had that are well suited for leadership. Others discover just the opposite. As Laurence J. Peter also said, “A man doesn’t know what he knows until he knows what he doesn’t know.” You’ll hear me strike a similar chord in my advice on this point: regular and open communication between you as the senior leader and those who work under you will enable you to see untapped or undiscovered leadership potential in team members. You’ll have the opportunity to nurture those latent abilities, equip team members to use them well, and provide opportunities for them to be used and developed. This is one way you can help future leaders discover that they are leaders deep down — or not. 5 - Potential leaders often point to the wrong evidence to support their leadership ambitions It’s good for team members to desire leadership, but the reasons they desire to be leaders can be a mixed bag. It’s your job as a senior leader to discern those motives, steer them in the right direction, and help them clearly see if leadership truly is for them. As you engage in conversations with those seeking leadership learn to ask questions about WHY they think they are ready for leadership. They may point to things they’ve been successful in that in reality, have no bearing on whether they are suited for leadership or not. As an experienced leader, you will be able to see those things and help them look to the markers that do matter for leadership. Outline of This Episode [0:46] How the Peter Principle still happens in today’s organizations [1:57] Reasons finding the right kind of leaders may not be possible [4:46] Trust and various tools can make the leadership selection process easier [5:25] Don’t underestimate the complexities and uncertainties involved  Resources & People Mentioned Connect with Bruce to schedule a time to chat about your leadership selection issue BOOK: The Peter Principle Connect With Bruce Facebook LinkedIn Twitter Subscribe to The Development Exponent Audio Production and Show notes by PODCAST FAST TRACK  
We’ve all heard it said that the shortest path between two points is a straight line. That’s undoubtedly true, but what we often fail to realize is that the BEST path is not always the most direct or straight path. Sometimes it’s the bends and turns in the path that brings the rich experience and learning that we need the most for carrying out our life’s work. My guest, Max Duckworth has taken his own winding path on his way to filling the important role he does now. It’s one that’s taken him from particle physics to environmental policy, to energy commodity trading, to impact investing. Max is now an impact investor and co-founder of Masa Partners, which in his words, attempts to invest in companies that make a positive impact on the world while making a profit at the same time. Putting together the varied lessons life has to teach us as we walk our winding paths enables each of us to move into opportunities we didn’t even know existed when we started the journey, and often, the world is better for it. Join me to explore the idea on this episode. Impact investing from a people perspective Impact investing is focused on making financial investments in companies that are taking on serious problems for the betterment of the world and mankind. It aims to be profitable through investment in companies that are making a difference — not just making money. Max says that his approach to choosing the companies his investment group will fund is focused around four “P”s: Problem — People — Product and Profit, in that order. It’s the people part of that progression that was especially intriguing to me, so I asked Max to elaborate on that piece. He says that he spends a significant amount of time assessing the founders and team of the company he’s considering an investment with. In his mind, he’s asking, “Is the group capable from a business standpoint and from an execution standpoint?” In other words, are they the kind of people who have both the skill and drive to get their product made and marketed well?  While it’s admittedly a subjective call, some of the things that go into answering those questions have to do with whether or not the team members have a personal connection to the mission. If they do, through life experience or history with the problem, they are more likely to be all in and will see the project through, and thus, create a profitable outcome. This assessment step is something savvy leaders could adapt and tweak it to help them create mutually meaningful work engagements for their teams. Hiring and retaining people who are personally connected to the projects you’re working on could dramatically impact the meaning your team members derive from their work and fuel your organization’s forward momentum over the long haul. When COVID hit, impact companies took the lead in caring for their people Though small and struggling to use their limited resources well, many early-stage companies that Max works with made what I’d consider the right choice when the COVID pandemic hit.  These mostly young leaders, by and large, considered the well-being and overall happiness of their employees as one of the essentials they must maintain during the pandemic. In my mind, this is an example of leadership done right. Perhaps it’s the focus on “impact” these founders already possess that enables them to see human capital as the primary consideration for the longevity of their companies. No matter the reason, I couldn’t help but say, “Well done” when I heard this news. Hiring is one of the most significant growth pains of early-stage companies As early-stage companies start to gain traction it can seem like a thousand things require attention all at the same time. One of the most crucial of the puzzle pieces that have to be sorted is hiring. Finding and hiring the right people can be a significant challenge. There's a need for more than simply matching the right skills and resume with the tasks at hand, which are many. It’s about drive, commitment to the cause, and chemistry with the team as much as anything else. The impact founders who keep these in clear view without caving to the sense of urgency they often feel will be able to find the people who can move their team forward, faster. It’s one example of how the creation of mutually meaningful work engagements begins at the very beginning when potential team members are vetted.  Outline of This Episode [1:03] Why a straight line is not always the best line [2:23] Impact investing — positive impact coupled with profitability [11:28] Max’s first angel investment and his foray into impact investing [18:10] His belief in win-win situations for life and investing [26:15] How decision are made regarding impact investments [37:01] How the COVID pandemic drove companies to get more done in less time [43:03] A timely example of Max’s first investment partner reaching a point of success [46:39] Why growth and hiring are huge obstacles for early stage companies [52:52] Think about the broader ramifications of your investment choices Resources & People Mentioned Constellation Energy The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Abingdon Health - one of Max’s early success stories Goods Unite Us - another of Max’s supported companies Connect with Max Duckworth Connect with Max on LinkedIn Max’s website: Follow Max on Twitter: @MaxRDuck Connect With Bruce Facebook LinkedIn Twitter Subscribe to The Development Exponent Audio Production and Show notes by PODCAST FAST TRACK
“The obscure we see eventually, the completely obvious, it seems takes longer.” ~ Edward R. Murrow.   Edward R. Murrow was a broadcast journalist and war correspondent who gained prominence during World War II. His statement points out something we all know, the obvious things don’t always get our attention right away. It happens to all of us. It even happens at work. We're busy, we're preoccupied, and mistakes are made. Sometimes we are lucky to have someone witness our fumbled actions or statements and we can get a good laugh from it. Other times it bites us squarely on the ass. One of the things which may seem obvious to you once you hear it is how to create meaningful connection with those you lead in the workplace. That’s the topic of this episode. Before you can create a mutually meaningful work engagement, you must do this Again, it sounds obvious but before you can engage in a mutually meaningful relationship with a team member, you have to understand what would make that connection meaningful for them. For people to willingly share with you what makes a work engagement meaningful for them, there first must be trust. Many of you already have that level of trust with your employees, but what about the new person? How do you develop a higher sense of trust with them straight out of the gate? In this episode I give you a number of quick tips on how to it, so be sure you listen all the way through. To build trust with your team, learn to say, “I don’t know.” During your first conversations with a new employee, there will likely be something they ask to which you are reasonably sure of the answer. But resist the temptation to feel that you have to give a definite answer. Say, “I don't know,” if you must, and follow it up with, “but I will find out and get you the answer by X time.”  Why is this important? Because conveying that you are reasonably sure puts the trust factor at risk. To them, “reasonably sure” might be perceived as the real deal and you’re then on the hook if it turns out not to be the case.  Leaders must learn how to appropriately ask personal questions of their team members I always get hate mail with this one, but nevertheless, I stand by my experience. I’ve discovered that it is important for the employee to know that as a leader, you're interested in their success and development as more than just an employee. The way to do that is to ask questions about things not related to work. This too is rather obvious, but not everyone agrees. You can ask about their non-work goals and objectives and how you can help them attain those.  I’ll write more on this at a later date, but leaders these days feel like they walk a tightrope when it comes to determining what they can and cannot ask their employees about their lives outside of work. I suggest you use common sense, be compassionate, and you'll be just fine. Do your team members understand your plan for their development? It’s important that every employee knows that you are intentional about your role in helping them develop and grow. Show them a general 10,000-foot plan for how they will be developed, challenged, and grow. It’s a matter of giving them evidence that you are invested in their growth and that it will bring mutual rewards for them and the organization. Use this time to also show them the high-level plan of the organization. They will appreciate being in the loop. If you are a top decision-maker experiencing challenges relating to this topic or any developmental topic, then give me a call and I will give you 20 minutes to confidentially discuss your situation and help you come up with a path to move you forward. My phone number is (715) 661-0364. Outline of This Episode [0:45] The painful truth of the obvious things missing our notice [1:58] What makes a mutually meaningful work engagement meaningful? [6:23] The obvious need for trust in work engagements and what it takes to foster it Resources & People Mentioned Call Bruce to discuss your situation - 715-661-0364 Connect With Bruce Facebook LinkedIn Twitter Subscribe to The Development Exponent Audio Production and Show notes by PODCAST FAST TRACK  
These days the word “authentic” is bandied about quite a bit, almost so much that it’s lost its meaning. That’s why it’s refreshing when you get the opportunity to chat with a leader who truly embodies the meaning of the word. Carl Atwell is an individual with whom I had that sort of conversation recently. He’s an “all-in” guy, which is one of the main reasons he’s so authentic. Carl doesn’t believe there’s any reason or point to playing games or allowing organizational culture to go sideways. So he talks straight and with incredible authenticity, and he does so for the sake of making his organization of better service to customers and more meaningful for his team members. Now THAT is a mutually meaningful work engagement! Carl is the owner and President of Gempler’s, a farm and home company that he says is an “81-year-old ecommerce company.” During our conversation, we discussed how Carl made the decision to purchase Gempler’s, the experience that prepared him for the opportunity, the challenges and successes he’s experienced at the helm so far, and why customer service and company culture are such important things to him. What the leader of an 81-year-old company can teach us about organizational culture The people who buy products from Gempler’s are those salt-of-the-earth individuals who know what it means to work hard to produce actual fruit from their labors. They are farmers, ranchers, landscapers, and other outdoor workers who do honest work for an honest wage. It’s these customers who motivate Carl to make Gempler’s the very best it can be. Though his company is not growing the food or raising the cattle, Carl is proud to serve those who are in ways that make it possible. It’s an honor he doesn’t take lightly. That attitude is one he diligently strives to pass to his employees. He wants them to see how their work matters, why the things they do are not only supporting themselves but also those who fuel the food supply of a nation. It’s an admirable ambition and one that demonstrates how good leadership is essential to the attitudes and behaviors of those within an organization. When modeled well, meaning and purpose through work can be caught as well as taught. How small to midsize companies can out-Amazon, Amazon Shortly after Carl took the reins at Gempler’s he led the organization through one of the most far-reaching and significant pivots the company had ever made, moving from a long-standing, catalog-sales model to an e-commerce brand. With their primary competition being Amazon and Wal-Mart, Carl knew he had his work cut out for him. Not only did he have to get past the barrier that the company’s long-standing catalog-only sales model represented, he had to do so in a way that not only retained customers but also made Gempler’s an attractive alternative to Amazon. His approach to the issue was ingenious: Gempler’s could do all the things Amazon does well — great customer service, free shipping, quality products — but also do something Amazon can’t do well, be a company that people want to support by applying an authentic, real-people approach. That would make customers truly enjoy engaging with them. His approach paid off. Gempler’s made the transition to e-commerce quickly and without losing many customers. And top-down customer service is one of their largest areas of focus. Top-down customer service sets the tone for an authentic company culture Companies can say anything they want about themselves on their own web properties. Whether the claims made are to be believed depends on either the gullibility or diligence of the visitor. But when I visited the Gempler’s website I noticed something that told me it was an organization that was doing more than talking a big talk. The President himself posts his private email address on the website and solicits feedback from customers. That’s unheard of and is one of the things that enables Carl to keep his finger on the pulse of the people the company serves. When I asked him about this he said that though it’s a practice that consumes a significant amount of time, it’s important to him that he replies to every email he receives. He wants Gempler’s customers to know that their needs and concerns are taken seriously and that it's a concern that begins at the top. This approach speaks volumes to the team members at Gempler’s, demonstrating that customer needs are among the most important priorities of the company. Carl shares stories about employees who were concerned that the company stayed open when the worldwide COVID pandemic began in early March 2020. Why were they so concerned? It wasn't just about their own paychecks, it was because they believed the company needed to be open to provide customers with the things they needed. That is proof that mutually meaningful work engagements are happening at Gempler’s, and it’s an example to be followed by other organizations. How does your organization stack up? Is your leadership committed to a top-down customer service approach that inspires your employees to take customer service seriously? Outline of This Episode [2:25] The 83 year old e-commerce company Carl chose to purchase [16:37] What it takes to do true customer service [25:07] Successes Carl is particularly proud of at Gempler’s [32:08] Challenges faced by Carl and the Gempler’s team most recently [36:02] The most significant defining moment in Carl’s life [47:55] Why the customers make Carl’s role meaningful to him [54:15] Carl’s top two takeaways for top decision-makers listening Connect with Carl Atwell Gempler’s Website Resources Mentioned In This Episode Land’s End River’s End Trading Connect With Bruce Facebook LinkedIn Twitter Subscribe to The Development Exponent Audio Production and Show notes by PODCAST FAST TRACK
When you hear the phrase “change the world,” which seems to be prevalent these days, do you tend to think of grand things, things that move the needle in big ways? Perhaps the type of things that come to mind are finding a cure for cancer or establishing a context in which world peace can be attained. If that’s how you think of world change, you’re not alone. But let me challenge you to think of it differently. You and I can change the world through smaller but no less significant actions, such as positively contributing to the development of the individuals around us. If you’re an organizational leader or top decision-maker, you have an especially fertile field in which to plant that type of seed and the harvest you might reap could be incredible over the course of your career. This episode introduces the concept of the Mutually Meaningful Work Engagement — a method by which organizational leaders can work toward the positive development of the people within their organizations, and increase the profitability and success of the organization at the same time. Working as a paramedic opened my eyes to the need for Mutually Meaningful Work Engagements I still remember my very first call as a paramedic. The call came in and I responded, driving to a rural location to find the victim’s son in the front yard raking leaves. It seemed odd, even out of place, but I had a job to do. I assessed the situation and went inside, making my way through piles of trash and filth to find the woman in need of assistance on the bathroom floor, lying in a pool of mixed liquids. It was a disturbing experience, but I was able to compose myself, focus on the task at hand, and stabilize the woman for transport to a local care facility. At home that evening, I wondered, “What was the point?” The woman seemed to live in pitiful conditions and with people who appeared not to care about her well being at all. Was it even worth it to save her life if that’s all she had to look forward to? But upon hearing that she made a full recovery and was doing well, I experienced a feeling I’ll never forget. I had helped someone in a significant way, and it felt very good. My journey over the years has led me to see that we all desire to feel that way, it’s part of why we work in the first place. We not only need to provide for ourselves we also want to contribute to things that make a difference for other people. Keep listening to hear how my experiences led me to envision and champion the concept I refer to as the Mutually Meaningful Work Engagement. Professional development and personal development merge within MMEs I believe that organizational leaders should be setting their sites higher than just professional development. Don’t get me wrong, professional development is great and organizations that intentionally contribute to the PD of their team members are doing a great thing. But even more powerful are organizations and leaders that take seriously the very real opportunity to help their organization’s leaders grow personally as they grow professionally — even if that means the person outgrows the organization in time. A Mutually Meaningful Work Engagement is beneficial on both sides of the relationship exactly because of this broader perspective. The individual receives coaching that could rival that of any professional life coach, while at the same time receiving true on-the-job training and development on a professional level. When the two are integrated, amazing things happen for both the individual and the organization they serve. It only makes sense… when the team members feel supported and empowered, they contribute to the organization’s goals at a higher level. The scale and scope of a Mutually Meaningful Work Engagement is bigger Stepping past the boundaries of professional development alone enables an organization to address the real needs and desires of those who have joined their teams. As a result, the organization has the opportunity to invest in team members that uniquely suit its needs while also experiencing the bottom-line benefits every organization must attain. Let’s quickly look at both sides of that equation... ORGANIZATIONAL BENEFITS Grow your bottom line Professional development becomes an accountable endeavor Greater ability to keep your good people Benefit from and leverage the short-timers on your team BENEFITS TO THE INDIVIDUAL Truly great professional development The opportunity for empowering and integrated personal development Feeling understood and appreciated Long term life skills that enrich their lives and the world These are just some of the benefits to the proper implementation and consistent application of MMEs. I invite you to listen to this entire episode to gain a deeper understanding of how MMEs can happen in your organization. Stick around to the end to hear how my organization, Contracted Leadership, could assist your organization in developing and implementing your own unique MMEs. Outline of This Episode [1:10] What does it take to REALLY change the world? [2:01] The power of contributing to the positive formation and development one person [8:32] Why should leaders strive to create mutually meaningful work engagements? [11:35] How individuals in the organization benefit from mutually meaningful work engagements Connect With Bruce Facebook LinkedIn Twitter Subscribe to The Development Exponent Audio Production and Show notes by PODCAST FAST TRACK
As a top decision-maker, you know the difficult balance between caring for team members in a personal way and maintaining proper professionalism with your team. I don’t believe there is a one-size-fits-all approach to this difficult issue, but I do believe there are guidelines that can serve to maintain the balance in effective and fruitful ways. My guest on this episode of the podcast is Jason Adamany, CEO and Founder of IT Service provider, Adesys, a company he started while he was still in college. Naturally, coming right out of college Jason was anything but a seasoned leader, but by applying a growth mindset to his leadership as well as to his company he's gleaned a wealth of personal experience that is ripe with takeaways on this topic. Modern business challenges brought on by COVID-19 Imagine this scenario: Your company’s workforce includes individuals who have worked for the company for many years and for the entire company’s existence, those team members have worked together, face to face, in the same facility. Then comes COVID-19, a worldwide pandemic that has forced companies to do business differently, by going entirely remote. Most of you don’t have to imagine the scenario because you’re living it. COVID-19 is no-doubt putting your leadership skills to the test, forcing you to learn new ways of cultivating and maintaining team culture in spite of the "new normal" of remote work. Jason Adamany says his entire staff is working remotely now. He’s finding it difficult to foster the team environment in the ways he's used to, especially as new team members come on. He hopes that most of his team will come back on-site before long, but the unknown and ongoing aspects of the current situation place more demands on team members and as a result, the company. He's learning to stay flexible and seek to understand. As team members juggle the situations COVID-19 has thrust upon them, such as their children being participants in digital classrooms while staying home, company leaders have to be able to flex with the changing needs of their employees while still turning a profit. One of the primary tools leaders must employ in a situation like this clear and compassionate communication. Listening empowers leadership and encourages the team When top leaders care for their teams effectively, team members are then able to care for clients in unprecedented ways. That’s the philosophy Jason Adamany has about the type of relationship leaders need to develop with team members. It’s a difficult balance that has no cookie-cutter solutions, however, there are many ways leaders can move in this direction, and all of them begin with effective listening: Solicit feedback from your team Make sure your team can contribute in ways that are meaningful to them as individuals Keep in mind that each team member will define that differently Work diligently to create an environment team members want to be in Do the work needed to create happy team members Communicate clearly that you value and understand that they have a life outside of work  The line between professionalism and entering into team member’s lives How involved should a leader be in the lives of their team members? Many would say that it’s inappropriate and potentially improper for leaders to ask too many questions about the private lives of their team members. Others feel they can’t lead their team members effectively if they don’t know what those individuals are experiencing in life outside of work hours. Jason Adamany says that his approach is to take the issue on a case by case basis. Each individual on a team will have a unique comfort level when it comes to their leaders knowing the details of their private lives. So take it slow and easy. While the best way to be there for employees is to seek to understand what’s going on outside of work, you may have to simply make it known that you are willing to listen and willing to help when and where your team members feel comfortable with that level of sharing. This is a tricky balance but a clear way that positive team culture, loyalty, and long-term commitment can be fostered. Listen to this episode to hear more! Outline of This Episode The reason today’s guest impressed me with his humility and modesty [0:55] How Jason’s upbringing led him to his current entrepreneurial career [2:31] His first IT company started during his college years [4:20] The fearful points of starting and building a business of your own [6:13] Empowering his team to take on more ownership and serve at a higher level [10:26] An amazing product Jason’s company stumbled upon [14:59] The challenges presented by Coronavirus for remote teams [19:16] The formative influences on Jason’s leadership today [27:01] The challenges of leaders knowing their employee’s life situations [32:08] Resources & People Mentioned Previous episode with Luke Perkerwicz Connect with Jason Adamany Jason’s company Adesys Follow Jason on LinkedIn The virtual receptionist Jason’s team created Connect With Bruce Facebook LinkedIn Twitter Subscribe to The Development Exponent Audio Production and Show notes by PODCAST FAST TRACK
One of the distinct things about the way we here at Contracted Leadership approach leadership and leadership development is the concept of “mutually meaningful work engagements.” It’s a hallmark of what we do because it is many times THE difference between average organizations and stellar ones, as well as the primary means by which individuals in the organization attain fulfillment and satisfaction in their work. This episode briefly defines the mutually meaningful work engagement from both the organizational perspective and the perspective of the individual employed by the organization. When you get what this concept is and understand how to implement it, you’ll lead your organization to a higher level of performance and significance. Work engagements can and should be meaningful in both directions A stereotypical view of employment is that of the grind — the resistant or even resentful daily trudge into the office, the mundane and monotonous execution of pre-defined and many times meaningless tasks, and the impatient watching of the clock until it’s time to return home. This perception implies that the organization is attaining its goals (meaning) but that the individual is not finding meaning. They are only a cog in the wheel that makes the goals of the organization possible. That’s a pessimistic viewpoint to have, but it is tragic if it represents reality.  We at Contracted Leadership believe that’s not only an archaic perception, but also one that should never be a reality. One of our primary goals is to help organizations and individuals find true meaning, and we do believe that it goes both ways. Yes, the organization should fulfill its end goals through the work and participation of the individual, but the individual should also find meaning in their work. We not only believe it should be this way, we believe that it can be this way. How are work engagements meaningful for organizations? When it comes to what makes for a meaningful work engagement for an organization, the answer depends on the type of organization. For-profit organizations clearly assess “meaning” in terms of profitability. Every one of these organizations is in the business of making money, making more money, and continuing to make more money. But they may also be aiming to innovate in ways that improve people’s lives, provide services that better human experiences, and significantly contribute to the lives of those they employ. Non-profit organizations are pursuing a cause or purpose that governs their sense of meaning. Though income is a consideration, it’s not the primary goal. The “why” behind the need for income is what fuels the non-profit organization.  Can individuals truly find meaning in work engagements? Many people only dream about the things they could do for a living that might bring purpose and meaning to their existence. Some go so far as to pursue those dreams through entrepreneurial or non-profit activities of their own choosing. But the vast majority of people lack the drive and vision for such endeavors. Does that mean they will forever miss out on meaning when it comes to the work they do week to week? We don’t believe so. Individuals can receive a great deal of meaning and satisfaction from even the most mundane or repetitive activities if they are led into it by those they work for and with. While work engagements only become mutually meaningful if both the individual and the organization are working toward that end, organizational leaders bear a particular responsibility for it becoming a reality. Average success can be turned into stellar success on both organizational and individual levels when leaders assume a facilitator role, serving as the connective tissue between the work being done and the purpose and meaning behind it. Are mutually meaningful work engagements possible? Many believe it’s not possible for work engagements to truly be mutually meaningful. The contention is that one side of the equation or the other will receive meaning but that both will not. We at Contracted Leadership vehemently disagree. This approach of pursuing mutually meaningful work engagements works. We have seen organizations grow considerably, develop cultures that team members love to be a part of, and accomplish both short and long term objectives. We’ve also seen individuals grow personally and professionally, many times receiving promotions or additional responsibility more quickly. As well, because of the personal and professional development that’s happening in the mutually meaningful work engagement process, new positions and opportunities often open up for these individuals, and careers take on greater momentum. Listen to hear more about the mutually meaningful work engagement and to understand how you can begin making your work engagements more fulfilling for your organization and the individuals within it. Outline of This Episode [0:55] What exactly IS a mutually meaningful work engagement? [2:01] What makes engagements meaningful for organizations? [3:28] Appropriate ways that leaders can to lean into the lives of their team members [5:33] The facilitator must be the leader. Here’s why [7:03] Outcomes of this approach that demonstrate its effectiveness Connect With Bruce Facebook LinkedIn Twitter Subscribe to The Development Exponent Audio Production and Show notes by PODCAST FAST TRACK
Every Senior Leader should be aiming to replicate themselves by developing future leaders from within their organizations. It’s a proven way to increase team ownership, improve existing teams and structures, and to build a stronger organization over the long haul. One of the primary ways this kind of leadership development happens is through living out the organization's values consistently. You can engrave a set of company values on the wall, but it’s quite another thing to live them out consistently. In a family-owned business, the impact of that kind of consistency is multiplied. Jim Hartlieb is a seasoned leader whose name has come up again and again when the subject of company culture and values comes up. He is part of the leadership team that has developed a values-based culture at First Business Bank of Madison, Wisconsin. First Business Bank’s clientele is primarily made up of family-owned businesses that have passed down through the generations. Join us for this lively conversation about leadership, the development of organizational values and their consistent implementation, and how to use those values to provide a mutually meaningful work engagement for everyone. Leading by example is crucial when developing future leaders A clear set of organizational values can be empowering and clarifying, but only if those in leadership make it their business to embody the values consistently and with integrity. Leaders can’t expect those they are leading to embrace and uphold the company's values if the leader’s own behavior demonstrates that the values are, in fact, not so important. “In our culture, we believe that leading by example and making sure your actions match your words, are a big deal.” That’s how Jim describes the attitude at First Business Bank. “That really starts at the top with our CEO, Corey Chambas, and really all through the organization. You can see it walking around every day at work in the meetings that we have as a team and then how we interact with clients.” Developing leaders in any organization will inevitably take on the same attitude as those who nurture and develop them as future leaders. That’s why leading by example is so critical. A helpful question to ask yourself as you develop future leaders is, “Am I the kind of leader my organization needs five or ten more of?” The Golden Rule of leadership development Most of us have heard of the Golden Rule: “Do to others as you would have them do to you.” It’s a great principle for life that translates into leadership perfectly. As you work with developing leaders, consider this principle as you provide feedback, encouragement, correction, and direction. How would YOU want to be treated in each of those contexts? Your answer to the question will prove extremely helpful. Jim says, “It goes back to one of the golden rules: treat people the way you want to be treated. The way I like to get feedback is to just tell me and have it be actionable feedback that I can learn from and improve on in the future. So, if that’s how I want to be treated then that’s how I should interact with the people that I manage on a day to day basis. To me, it’s just common sense that if you expect someone to do the right thing, not only do they need to understand it but when you see them veering off the path, you need to be able to give them that feedback in a way that they can correct their behavior in the future. It seems pretty basic but you don’t always see it played out that way.” Helping future leaders prepare for inevitable leadership challenges One of the most challenging leadership situations is when an upcoming leader steps into a position where they will be expected to lead people who have years of experience in the industry and perhaps are much older. Are you doing everything you can to help your future leaders prepare for those situations so they can respond with the savvy and wisdom it takes to fully enlist those people on their teams? Jim Hartlieb of First Business Bank tells the story of his first leadership position. He’d moved from Chicago to Madison, Wisconsin, and took over a leadership role where long-time employees, many of them significantly older than him, were on his team. He was literally the “young whippersnapper from Chicago,” and was tasked with leading these precious people who had been in banking longer than he’d been alive. Jim recognized the challenge before him and had the wisdom to ask his wife’s Uncle, a successful businessman near the age of his new team members for his advice. The advice he received was golden. “Don’t make that be a factor. Focus on the issues at hand, be prepared. Use common sense, use empathy and everything kind of works out for itself.” He says that advice not only served him during that time of transition but has also served as a wonderful guide throughout his career. Advice for future leaders of family-owned companies Family-owned businesses are unique in that the mantle of leadership is most often passed down from one generation to the next rather than passed along to an executive who has come in from outside the company. In a scenario of this type, it is even more important that the development of upcoming leaders happens effectively. Having the same last name as the company’s founder or current leader is clearly not an adequate qualification for leadership. I asked Jim what advice he would give to those who are overseeing the development of upcoming leaders in family businesses. What he shared was both a common-sense approach and a perspective that lends valuable insight, since many of the customers of the bank where Jim serves as President are family-owned businesses. 1 - Upcoming leaders who are destined to take on the leadership of their family’s business should work in another business first. Whether this is right out of college or in some volunteer capacity, the experience gained through working in a different organization, under different leaders provides much-needed perspective and experience. 2 - Current leaders in a family-owned business need to allow upcoming leaders to fail. Protecting future leaders from the harsh but needful reality of failure is unwise. They not only need to learn how to handle failure personally but also how to lead others from failure to success. 3 - Ensure that upcoming leaders understand what change management is all about. It doesn’t matter what industry the family-owned business is in, the business itself and the way business is done today is different than it was even five to ten years ago. That will continue to be the case moving forward, so the next generation has to be able to embrace change and to surround themselves with people who can help them handle the change that will inevitably come. As you work toward the eventual appointment of future leaders in your organization, you’ll be well-served by pondering and applying the advice shared here. The best leadership transitions happen successfully because thoughtful attention has been given to them. Outline of This Episode [3:55] How a tired maxim of modern business is brought to life by First Business Bank [8:32] The exciting thing about leadership, from Jim’s perspective [10:46] Jim’s biggest leadership challenge ever [17:50] The most common struggles of emerging leaders [22:01] Common challenges businesses today are facing [28:45] Jim’s prediction about the challenge of bring Connect with Jim Hartlieb Follow Jim on LinkedIn Connect With Bruce Facebook LinkedIn Twitter Subscribe to The Development Exponent Audio Production and Show notes by PODCAST FAST TRACK
It has been some time since I last published an episode of this podcast and I apologize for that. I decided back in late February to take a short break and then come back with an updated format for the podcast. But life — or should I say, “death” — interrupted. There’s nothing like a crisis to distract your focus Beginning in late February, my father began another battle with cancer and over the following months the situation became dire. Some of you know the difficulty of coming alongside siblings who have tirelessly cared for an ailing parent to help any way you can. It’s a part of life I would never wish on anyone. After undergoing two significant operations, my father died on April 24th and was buried with military honors. If you stop to think about that time in history, you’ll recognize that it was right in the middle of the worldwide COVID-19 situation. I am very grateful that in spite of the difficulties of planning a memorial service under the necessary restrictions, he was still able to be remembered with military honors that he so rightly earned during World War II.  That’s where I feel I lost my focus… Maybe I should say I became ultra focused, first on my father and then on my family and all of the things involved with the loss of both parents. There is no doubt, some of you would have navigated the situation better or differently than I did but I have learned a lot from the experience — and it has certainly given me a different perspective on so many things, some of those I will share with you in future episodes.  Restarting after that loss of focus As I record this episode, I do so with a very clear intention in mind. As I restart the podcast I am also reformatting the way in which I will record and produce content in this medium. Current listeners will recall that this podcast is ultimately about creating mutually meaningful work engagements. The way to achieve mutually meaningful work engagements is to develop leaders who know how to create those kinds of experiences for the teams they lead. That’s why the word “development” is so prominent in the name of this podcast. Let me be clear, the concept of a “mutually meaningful work engagement” is not another of those fluff-filled phrases so common in leadership literature and philosophy. The way I think of the concept is… It refers to the importance of growing organizations and developing people, especially leaders It imparts very objective responsibilities for all parties and when done, will provide verifiable rewards to all parties involved Even though a few things are changing, I fully intend to stay focused on this issue. It’s the heartbeat of what I and my organization do. What you can expect going forward As this podcast relaunches, beginning with this episode, you will notice two distinct changes. 1 - I will almost exclusively be interviewing people who are top decision-makers for SMEs and publishing those episodes every other publication. During these conversations we will discuss their experiences, challenges, successes, and will even delve into some funny personal questions, with an emphasis on the developmental aspects of their growth leadership experiences. 2 - Every other episode will be a “solo” episode, featuring yours truly. I’m going to begin by explaining what a mutually meaningful work engagement is, move on to the consideration of why it is vital in organizations large and small, and then move on to uncovering how to create them through effective leadership development. Given these two options, you will have the choice of listening only to really great guest episodes, or to the specifics of creating usually meaningful work engagements. My suggestion is that you listen to both.  A peek at what’s coming The next episode I intend to publish will feature another very special guest. He is someone who has been referenced a fair amount by other guests who have already joined me on the podcast, and he is someone for whom I have a tremendous amount of respect. He is a leader’s leader.  My guest will be Jim Hartlieb, President of First Business Bank. I encourage you to be watching for that episode. It is a fun, refreshing, intriguing, and down-to-earth conversation that provides a tremendous amount of insight into leadership and life. I want to thank all of you who extended thoughts to me during the last couple months. Thank you for being there for me and know that should you ever find yourself in the same situation, I would love the opportunity to be available to you. Just let me know. Connect With Bruce Facebook LinkedIn Twitter Subscribe to The Development Exponent Audio Production and Show notes by PODCAST FAST TRACK
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